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The Electric Vehicle Revolution Demands Fresh Marketing Strategies
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The Electric Vehicle Revolution Demands Fresh Marketing Strategies

Kendall Smith

The automotive industry is experiencing a tectonic shift when it comes to consumer electric vehicle (EV) consideration. JD Power’s recent EVX study (Electric Vehicle Experience) notes as many as 16,000,000 EVs could be sold over the next four years. Yet, EVs, led by consumer and political demands, require companies to reevaluate their traditional marketing methods. Understanding consumer resonance and targeting viable audiences are mission-critical. However, with only 1.7 million EVs sold since 2010, the pool marketers have to work with, regarding insights and scale, is limited. That is about to change radically.

According to Automotive News’ Future Automotive Pipeline (2020-2024), 20 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will launch 65 EVs between now and 2024. These represent U.S. figures only and do not account for the global shift to EV production. For the first time since the dawn of the 20th century, the value associated with internal combustion engines is being challenged. More recently, GM announced plans to retire combustible engines by the year 2035. 

The pivot we are witnessing represents fertile ground for marketers to extend their brand’s halo and broaden their appeal to new customers. In the U.S., particular regions have attained critical mass in regards to EV demand. Yet the entire industry is playing catch up with Tesla, who is the leading EV manufacturer. A meeting I had with one senior agency executive, who manages a luxury auto brand noted this past autumn, “Tesla is eating our client’s lunch in the Pacific markets.”

It begs the question, what can auto marketers do today to position themselves to defend and grow their share-of-market during this era of EV disruption? 

Capturing Real-Time Consumer Sentiment

When marketers launch EVs, they need to accelerate the time it takes to measure consumer sentiment, engagement and site-level metrics. Using first-party data from a data management platform (DMP) alone is not going to paint a holistic picture of new EV consumers. Consumers’ perception of your brand is going to shift. If your company is not positioned to measure the impact of advertising, social channels and viewing across all screens, you will miss key opportunities. It’s imperative to understand what resonates in the minds of consumers from ad impressions for your first EV model to confirmed buyers at the bottom of the funnel.

The aforementioned JD Power study highlights that once a consumer shifts from internal combustion engines to EVs they are less likely to return to gas vehicles. The findings note consumers who already own an EV will definitely consider another one 65% to 95% of the time, depending on satisfaction and intended loyalty levels. For the marketer, this represents an opportunity to find and capture new consumers once they make an EV purchase. 

Marketers who work with independent vendors, who can measure consumer sentiment and connect the dots between impressions and sales, will be better positioned than most to earn consumers’ attention and sales. But first they’ll need to find EV audiences.

Needles in the Haystack: Future EV Buyers

As noted previously, with only 1.7 million EV purchasers in the market, targeting current EV owners is fraught with risk. There is the chance an automotive marketer would target Tesla owners extensively, given the brand’s share of the EV market. To avoid duplicative ad messaging, frequency capping can help, but this tactic limits reach and scale within this audience of buyers. Both represent a challenge for marketers.

Finding the right balance requires expanding to a broader range of audience testing and starting the process with key performance indicators (KPIs) oriented around awareness and engagement. Reach can be gained by pairing like-minded audiences. For example, some data providers can target consumers who have an interest in other eco-friendly products, such as electric lawn care products or solar panels. Others could pursue the audiences of celebrities associated with eco-friendly lifestyles, like Zac Efron and his series, Down to Earth. Targeting his 18 million followers on Facebook represents a sensible starting point to raise awareness of a forthcoming EV launch.

Once a brand’s new EV hits the showroom, marketers who set up a feedback loop to process and measure engagement, consideration and purchase intent will be better positioned to accelerate sales. Keeping tabs on the entire purchase funnel can provide a marketer with a better read on his or her brand’s halo. 

Make no mistake, many automotive manufacturers who have EV models in their pipeline will see their halo illuminate the color green with the introduction of multiple EV models. Companies that adapt will see their brand haloes grow brighter more so than the competition, which represents the core tenant of marketing. 

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